Thursday, 17 April 2014

Skill Development Initiatives in some of the Congress ruled States in India

Photo Source: Rajiv Yuva Kiranalu , GoAP
What drives the people to become transformative in life and productive in work is actually how far the competition, choices and efficiency systems functions in the country’s education and training sector. That matters a lot. During the last decade skilling and re-skilling people have been a major agenda for both Union and State governments. Many new initiatives were taken up to increase the skill building capacity realizing the fact that the window of demographic dividend otherwise would go unutilized. And perhaps, many felt that failing to use properly the demographic dividend would end up social and economic disasters. However, it is interesting to note that the Union government has opened up the policy reforms in the area of skilling and re-skilling and some of the State governments have really invented its wheel to reform the skilling and re-skilling through various innovative delivery mechanisms. Among others, involvement of both private sector and the technology has played a major role in the process of skilling and re-skilling of large number of persons in different communities.

One of the main agenda of all the State Governments have been improving the conditions of imparting skill development to those who dropout early from school education, existing workers in unorganized sector, the marginalized sections, etc. Besides, Union government’s schemes on skill development and training, some State Governments are implementing their own skill development schemes which are far more effective in some ways. Indeed, few State Governments have initiated institutional reforms in skilling people with structured institutional mechanisms. There is uniqueness in each of these State government’s skill development initiatives.

 In what follows are the brief analysis of the key new initiatives of skill development by some of the States wherein the Congress Party is or was in power till recently. Basically, the aim is to look at the key policy initiatives and the performances of the schemes implemented by the State governments. Four States have been identified for present analysis: Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala and Manipur.

Andhra Pradesh (Congress Party was in power till recently)- New Initiatives: established Skill Development Fund (SDF), created a Rajiv Education & Employment Mission (REEM) to act as umbrella platform for all the skill development efforts of major departments. Best performance: Rajiv Yuva Kiranalu (RYK) started in 2010-2011 to convert the non-literate, school dropout, unskilled and unemployed youth into productive workforce by building their skills and place them in appropriate jobs. Several focused sub-missions were also set up to target the persons for skilling and job placement. The major changes the scheme brought-out include institutional mechanism approach; IT based implementation system; bio-metric attendance system and post-placement support services. As on April 16, 2014, over 4.95 lakh persons have been trained and placed with jobs in private sector.

Maharashtra-New Initiatives: established Maharashtra Knowledge Corporation (MKC) in 2001 to create new paradigm in education and development through universalization and integration of Information Technology in teaching, learning and educational management processes in particular and socio-economic transformative processes in general. Recently the State has also set up the Maharashtra State Skill Development Society (MSDS) which will act as nodal agency for policy planning, execution and monitoring of skill development initiatives. Best performance: Through MKC, network of over 5000 Learning Centers with more than 40,000 computers with state-of-the-art hardware, software and internet connectivity created; over 8.5 million youth  were given state-of-the-art IT Literacy Training; direct student facilitation services to 3.6 million + University students through 5,977 colleges in 13 universities in 2 States were provided; more than 8.4 million youth have been given Online Admissions and Online Recruitment Services across the State ; over 25,000 youth got direct regular employment or self-employment opportunities at their own native places; and about one lakh youths received indirect job opportunities at their own native places.

Kerala- New Initiatives: established Kerala Skills Excellence Academy (KSEA) in 2012 as an apex organization for the skill development initiatives in the State. KSEA facilitates focused training for high-tech automation driven industries (pneumatics, hydraulics or factory automation etc.) through specialized Training Centres which will be set up under existing government Industrial Training Institutes. Construction sector has created maximum employments in the country in recent years. KSEA has also set up a Construction Academy with industry association to conduct training courses, provide accreditations and certification for construction personnel across the entire spectrum ranging from architects and civil engineers to masons, plumbers, etc. Kerala is perhaps the second in the country after Andhra Pradesh to establish sector specific focus to train construction sector workers in large numbers as they are mostly in informal in job nature and unskilled or semi-skilled at present.

Manipur-New Initiatives: established Manipur Skill Development Society (MSDS) in 2011 to impart skill training for youths of Manipur and convert them from unemployed to be employed with a job that earns at least Rs.8,000 to Rs.10,000 per month. MSDS facilitates job oriented skill training offered by reputed institutes/knowledge partners outside the Manipur (Guwahati, Kolkata, Noida, Delhi, Hyderabad, etc.). Thousands of persons have been trained and placed with a job in sectors like Aviation& Travel & Tourism, Ayurveda & Spa Therapy, Beauty Therapy, Hair & Body make up, ITES/BPO, Retail Management, Front Office Operation, Food & Beverage, Banking & Financial Insurance, etc.

All of the above initiatives are quite transformative in nature for varied people in their States. These new initiatives have played a vital role for millions of people to equip with relevant skills and enhance the chances of employability in the job market. We need similar or more pragmatic approach towards skilling or re-skilling of varied sections so as to improve their living standards.



Friday, 4 April 2014

The Idea of Process of Public Policy Making in India

Three years after independence India became a Republic in 1950 by adopting a Constitution which emphasise worldly principles for civilised society. According to economists Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen “India was the first non-Western country – and also the first poor country in the world – to commit itself to a resolutely democratic way of governance.”

It has been over 66 years after Independence yet the core structure of ways and means which attributes to the process of public policy making has not been fixed despite the fact that the Constitution of India lays-down broad framework for such processes. This is true both at Union government level as well as State/UT government level. In India, the key decision makers involved directly in the process of public policy making are: (i) political representatives/elected representatives; (ii) bureaucrats and technocrats; and (iii) the constitutional bodies/agencies. At functional level, all these three are at silos as far as the public policy decision making is concerned! But constitutionally they are not.

Unlike the factor of Time which dynamically unfolds almost constantly among the forces, the process to make public policy have not been changed in the last six decades at least,  for two reasons: the understanding and commitment of the political and elected representatives about the constitutional process of public policy making has been by and large unmoved from the time of colonial rule. Secondly, the chaotic structure of the  executives/bureaucratic set ups for administrative power to engage with the core business of public policy making has been moved away from what is emphasized in the Indian Constitution and continues to practice the wild of its own course to make policies which produce outcomes that are neither here nor there.

In other words, the voices of people have been suppressed by these two groups and thus, the twin objective of true democratic governance system embedded in transparency and accountability has been undermined in the process of public policy decision making. However, it has been rightly seen that the performance of the constitutional bodies/agencies performed relatively better than the two other functionaries of the governance system. However, the supply side problems in the constitutional bodies/agencies are yet to be fixed to further its constitutional commitments for effectiveness.

What constitutes the present structure of process of public policy making in India at Union government level? The idea of change proposal comes from top leadership. Typically two types of people are engaged in it. The first one is the bureaucrats who along with few technocrats devise the broad framework for public policy making in a given area. Though, there are Official Guidelines (prepared and approved by bureaucrats themselves with the help of elected representatives!) issued by the Cabinet Secretariat for preparing a public policy in the Union government. Once the bureaucrats do their role as administrative process in terms of conceptualising the idea for policy change proposed and prepare the material in a particular format and share it with other line government agencies which include the Union/State government Ministries/Departments for their comments/views, if any, and once received modify them into a structure which suits both or find middle path! Thereafter, the draft policy is send to the elected representatives for consideration, debate and approval. The matter ends there, and often the draft policy goes back and forth between the bureaucrats and the elected representatives for all kinds of reasons which are unknown to the people of the country because it’s “Secret”.

Any country which has adopted strong committed liberal democratic form of governance unlikely to follow these shoddy systems for public policy making. Moreover, why liberal democracy like India not embarrassing the democratisation of public policy decision making? Being a vibrant liberal democracy why only it relies on consensus building method alone? Why not take the process of public policy making to the people at large? These are the vital questions which need to be emphasised for improving the quality of public policy making. Given the massive policy paralysis that took badly on the functions of Parliament in recent years, some perceptive foundation is being made in India to think-through seriously about the democratisation of process of public policy decision making. There are two interesting analyses which are pertinent and noteworthy:

·         Quite interestingly, Shishir Priyadarshi had studied the Indian agriculture sector in view of WTO negotiations on various aspects of trade policies. Her main tool for analysis was how far the Democratization of Decision-Making Process involved in the negotiations. She examined the manner in which the negotiating proposal was finalized, the consultations that were undertaken and the actual decision-making process that led to the submission of the proposal. In her study she carefully studied the key stakeholders involved/not involved in the process: (farmer, civil society, academic institutions & think tanks, state governments, industry, etc. This would be a classic case for taking the idea of public policy process of decision making further in India.

·         According to Arun Maira “Obtaining consensus is a big challenge in all democracies, as the US's recent experience attests. It is even more difficult in India. However, the challenge cannot be avoided. Therefore, participants in policymaking in India must learn and apply techniques of faster, consultative decision-making.” He further, argues rightly so that in the case of India, “Policy reform… requires more attention to the building of the process by which the ongoing involvement of stakeholders, mobilisation of resources and actions, and monitoring of process is done, than to the content of a single policy announcement.”
These are all very insightful debate and needs to be carried forward with more constructive focus as far as the democratization of public policy decision making is concerned.